The figurative language of Tara Westover…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about the personification, similes and metaphors of scholar Tara Westover…

The story of Tara Westover is almost impossible to believe. An American author living in the UK, Westover was born in a Mormon family opposed to public education and she never attended school. Instead, she worked in her father’s junkyard and helped her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She became fascinated with learning, however and eventually earned admission to Brigham Young University, from which she graduated magna cum laude. From there, she won a scholarship to Cambridge University where she ultimately earned  a PhD in history.

Educated, is her first book, a memoir of her bleak early life. I found it hard reading because the story was so dire, filled with many harrowing accidents. The writing, however, was magnificent. Westover expresses herself with lyrical and graceful figurative language. Here are my favourite examples.

  • Meanwhile our farm dances: the heavy conifer trees sway slowly, while the sagebrush and thistles quiver, bowing before every puff and pocket of air.
  • If the conifers and sagebrush are soloists, the wheat field is a corps de ballet, each stem following all the rest in bursts of movement, a million ballerinas bending, one after the other, as great gales dent their golden heads.
  • She had the longest hair I’d ever seen, a cascade the colour of field mice that fell to her knees when she took it out of its tight bun.
  • As mother recounted these details, the blood drained from her face until she sat, pale as an egg, her arms wrapped around herself.
  • When I picture her now I conjure a single image, as if my memory is the slide projector and the tray is stuck.
  • Her hair pushes out of her head in tight curls, and her lips are pulled into a polite smile, which is welded in place.
  • Grandma sits across from me, chewing her asparagus again and again in her crooked jaw, the way a goat might, sipping from her ice water, giving no indication that she’s heard a word dad has said, except for the occasional vexed glare she throws at the clock when it tells her it’s still too early for bad.
  • Snowflakes fleck against the windshield like tiny insects, a few at first, then so many of the roads disappears.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 3/18.

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